Frequently Asked Questions

When should I start looking for housing off campus?

Some of the larger apartment complexes will start pre-leasing as early as October for the following academic year (example: sign a lease in October 2012 for the 2013-2014 academic year). Many students will continue to look at housing well into the Spring semester. OCSS offers an off campus housing fair in February to provide students a convenient way to inquire about housing off campus. If you are looking for a single-unit rental (i.e. a house in a neighborhood) your timing gets pushed back to late spring.

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How do I find housing off campus?

OCSS provides students with a website that lists available apartments and houses for rent in Columbia and the surrounding area. The site provides information such as location, pricing, floor plans, and amenities about each listing.

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Should I live off campus?

OCSS stands by the University of South Carolina mission that encourages students to live on campus when possible however there is not enough housing on campus to accommodate the entire student population. Living off campus comes with more responsibilities as well as certain freedoms than living on campus.Over 75% of students at the University live off campus and OCSS is here to assist in finding housing as well as making the adjustment to off-campus living.

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What if I’m a college freshman and I want to live off campus?

All first year students are required to live on campus for their first academic year (two semesters). An appeal may be filed in order to live at home with parents to University Housing.

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Can OCSS recommend a place to live off campus?

Off-Campus Student Services can provide students with resources to find off campus housing and the education necessary to make an informed decision. We do not recommend housing or make referrals for housing off campus. It is important to determine your budget and needs for housing off campus including location, amenities, etc in order for you to determine the best off-campus housing based on needs and priorities.

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How do I know where certain apartments or houses are located?

OCSS has provided a map of most apartment and condo communities within a five-mile radius of campus. Students can also view an amenity chart that breaks down the apartment communities where the majority of our undergraduate students live.

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Do I have to visit Columbia to search for housing?

It is never recommended that you sign a lease before seeing the property in person. If you have to make a separate trip to Columbia it may be well worth the trip in order to physically see the property you are thinking about renting.

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Are the off campus housing properties affiliated with the University?

No, all the properties are owned independently of the University.

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Can I use my financial aid to pay for my off campus housing?

Students may use their financial aid to pay for housing. Once students apply their financial aid to pay their tuition and fees, the remaining balance of aid will be reimbursed to them. It is then up to the student to responsibly manage that lump sum and pay their bills each month. Students should be prepared to cover first month’s rent, any up-front fees, and security deposits out of their own pocket, just in case these are due before the financial aid refund is received. For more information, please visit Student Financial Aid.

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How much is rent and what else do I have to pay?

Rent in Columbia and the surrounding area can vary greatly. The average rent is likely somewhere between $450-700 per person per month. The closer you live to campus the higher the rent will likely be. Some rent payments will cover everything from utilities to high-speed internet to lawn services while others may cover none of those. It is important when looking for a place to live to clarify with the landlord what the rent payment covers.

The Financial Literacy Program offers a one hour consultation for students that are moving off-campus. This consultation covers the added financial responsibilities that come with moving out of the residence halls and how to budget wisely to save money while living off campus. For more information, please contact the Student Success Center at 777-1000.

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Do I have to sign a 12 month lease?

The lease terms will indicate how long your lease is. Most apartments/houses will require a 12 month lease while others may allow you to sign a shorter term such as 6-9 months. Many students who do not plan on staying the entire summer will look for some to take over their lease for the remaining months of the term (sublease).

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What is an individual lease?

An individual lease means that your name is the only one on your lease (and perhaps your guarantor) and you are only responsible for your portion of the total rent. For example, if you live in a four bedroom apartment that offers individual leases, you only pay your portion and your roommates pay their portion separately. If a roommate moves out, you still are only responsible for your portion if you have an individual lease.

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Can I purchase a meal plan if I live off campus?

University of South Carolina Dining Services does offer meal plans to commuter students. Please visit their website for more information on pricing and availability.

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Where can commuter students park on campus?

Commuter students have several options for parking on campus – commuter lots, parking garages, or street/meter parking. The lots and garages require specific parking permits. There is more information about parking on the OCSS site as well as Parking Services.

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What if I don’t have a car?

There are places within walking distance to campus that are available for rent but that does limit your options. Most of our students do not live within walking distance to campus. There are also many apartment complexes that provide a free shuttle service to campus during set hours. It is important to note that these shuttle services are operated separately from the University and are not a guaranteed service. This means if the shuttle needs to be taken off line for service they do not need to provide an alternative for students.

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What if I don’t know anyone and need to find a roommate?

OCSS does not have a roommate matching system. We do offer message boards on the off-campus housing website specific to finding a roommate. You may post on there if you have a place and need a roommate or if you need a place and a roommate. The message boards are used daily and get a decent amount of traffic. Some apartment complexes will assist in the roommate matching process, please contact individual complexes to find out about their services. Most of the complexes that offer individual leases will provide roommate matching.

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What if I have a conflict with my roommate?

You are encouraged to try to work all conflicts out before seeking outside sources. If this is not possible, the University Office of Student Conduct offers Mediation Services.

Does the Student Code of Conduct apply to me if I’m off campus?

Yes, the Student Code of Conduct applies to all students enrolled in the University regardless of institutional or program affiliation. This applies to all students whether the event occurs on or off campus. If you are enrolled and engage in student misconduct off campus, you may be held accountable on campus through the Office of Student Conduct.

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How can I set up a carpool with people in my area?

OCSS offers a message board for carpooling on the off-campus housing website. You are encouraged to use this board to help with setting up a carpool to and from campus.

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How do I know if there is an emergency on campus?

All individuals are encouraged to sign up for Carolina Alert, the University’s emergency notification system. You may choose to receive information via text message, telephone or email by signing up through VIP. The University is also testing a tone system that can be heard on campus as well as in the downtown Columbia area.

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Where can I find storage options?

Please note these companies are not affiliated with the University of South Carolina. Their inclusion does not indicate a referral or recommendation by the University. The options below are the closest to campus and are included based on their location.

U-Haul Moving & Storage at Elmwood Ave
1037 Elmwood Avenue, Columbia, SC
(803) 256-2499 ‎

Rosewood Self Storage
212 South Sumter Street, Columbia, SC
(803) 252-7526 ‎

Rosewood Drive Storage
410 Superior Street, Columbia, SC
(803) 252-7526

Public Storage – Self Storage
1305 Rosewood Drive, Columbia, SC
(800) 883-8369

A Self Storage Center
2830 Main Street, Columbia, SC
(803) 799-1525

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